Normally, when you see a brown avocado, you steer away from it. Somewhere along the line, we started assuming that anything brown on the meat of an avocado means the fruit has gone bad. But is that always the case? Are those brown spots in avocado edible? Should you be concerned?
No. Those small, localized brown spots in avocado are harmless. However, there are some signs that you should pay attention to, because browning could mean your avocado is rotting.
What Are The Brown Spots in Avocado?
Do avocados bruise? You’ve probably never thought about it. After all, avocados have thick skin. Cutting them can be difficult. So why would they ever bruise?
Well, as it turns out, avocado can get bruised. That shows up as those small brown dots or streaks through the green delicious parts. The technical term for brown spots in avocado is “vascular browning.”
Vascular browning occurs for a couple of reasons. The inside of the avocado is a little like a cell, where all the water and nutrients are being shuttled around the pit. The way these nutrients get around is through transport channels that are usually invisible to the human eye.
However, where the avocado is damaged, you see the physical evidence of it. The vascular tissue inside an avocado undergoes browning when there’s trauma. Examples include sitting in cold storage for an extended period, getting dropped from a high height, or having pressure exerted on the fruit for a long while.
Stem-End Rot and Browning
There’s another reason why there are brown spots in avocado. It’s called “stem-end rot,” where fungi enters the avocado through the stem and travels through the vascular tissues. Within the fruit, the fungi starts to attack the tissue, where it begins to die, creating those brown spots and fissures.
Here’s some good news: The fungus isn’t harmful to humans. As long as you eat the avocado fast, you can avoid the accelerated rot, too.
Can You Eat Avocado With Brown Spots?
You can most definitely eat an avocado with brown spots, but it might not taste as good as one without them. How dark the spots are can also tell you a bit about the flavor quality. Lighter brown that is less visible won’t affect the flavor as much as deeper brown or even black spots and streaks.
The brown spots don’t always show up right away—only with a few days ripening at room temperature. The longer the avocado sits, the worse the browning gets. This is because rancid flavors develop as the enzymes and fats in the vascular tissue become exposed to oxygen.
So, if you’re wondering if your brown-spotted avocado is edible, the best way to tell is with a taste test. Sure, brown spots in avocado don’t look as enticing, but it’s still tasty—most of the time.
Here’s a video explaining why it’s okay to eat a brown avocado:
How Can You Tell When an Avocado is Ripe?
Give your avocado a gentle squeeze before peeling off the skin. In most cases, the avocado should be slightly firm but have a little give. That means it’s ripe. If the avocado squashes or feels mushy, it’s probably long overdue and must be discarded.
Cut the avocado open. If it has a fresh smell, you can eat it, despite the brown spots or streaks. Remember, a small amount of browning is okay. Just because the avocado is slightly bruised doesn’t mean you can’t eat it.
If the skin of the avocado looks compromised, slice around it until you find where the damage stops. You can eat anything that still looks fresh.
How Do You Know if an Avocado is Bad?
The brown spots in avocado are safe to eat in most cases. But how do you know when an avocado is beyond salvaging? Here are some signs that will help you determine if an avocado has gone bad:
- Shriveled skin
- Blackened skin
- Mushy fruit
- Foul smell
- Stringy, dark flesh
Here’s some more detail on those signs:
This is the most prominent sign. If you pick up an avocado that has shriveled, mushy skin that is caving in, it’s best to walk away. Ripe avocados don’t look withered. The outside should be firm, with an even amount of green and brown. A little bit of bumpiness is also a sign that the avocado is fresh.
There are many types of avocado (as many as 50) out there, and they all have a distinct change when ripening. The most common—the Hass avocado—should have bumpy, bright green skin that gradually changes to a brownish dark green. Once the color of an avocado is closer to black, it’s a sign that it’s gone bad.
Good avocados never feel soft. Even if you have brown spots in avocado, as long as it’s not mushy, it’s fine. One way to test for this without peeling a spoiled avocado is to gently press into the skin. If there is a dent, the avocado is overripe or bad.
Mold on the Avocado
Mold is always a clear indication that the fruit is well past ripeness. If you see gray or white fuzz on the skin, do not eat the avocado. Also, do not smell the avocado. Mold spores can easily be inhaled and may cause respiratory distress.
Most avocados smell good—kind of nutty and sweet. When an avocado is emitting a strong, off-putting scent, you know it’s time to throw it away. Don’t even bother cutting open an avocado that smells rank.
Stringy, Dark Flesh
So you know that brown spots in avocado are a natural occurrence when the fruit has been in cold storage for too long or has gotten bruised. What about black or gray strings? If those strings or streaks are affecting the flesh and making it mushy, the avocado is no longer safe to eat.
How to Stop The Brown Spots in Avocado From Happening
Sometimes, there is no preventing the brown spots. It can happen during transportation to the grocery store. However, if you have fresh avocado and want to keep it from browning, store them in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Furthermore, if you want to keep the avocado longer, you can freeze it for up to 6 months before vascular browning sets in.
Be sure to keep the avocado away from fruits that produce ethylene gas, as that can make other fruits ripen more quickly. Ethylene-emitting fruits include bananas, pears, kiwi, apples, and tomatoes.
Another method to prevent brown spots in avocado is to cut it in half, remove the pit, and then brush the flesh with a little oil. The oil creates a barrier against oxygen that will preserve the coloring for 1-2 days. Consume within that time. Optionally, you can brush the fruit with lemon juice.
Keep Your Avocado Fresh and Green
Brown spots in avocado shouldn’t affect the quality of your fruit too much when it’s fresh. The browning is harmless and a result of either natural oxidation or some bruising. However, if you want to get the optimum flavor experience, you should consume your avocado as quickly as possible!
Avocado salad anyone?
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